Would you like to make your organization more sustainable so you can save time, money and resources? Consider regularly monitoring the latest smart manufacturing trends. It will give you ideas on what types of smart technology fit your operation or can make it better.
Here are some recent trends in smart manufacturing that have made the production processes more efficient.
Modernizing Supply Chain Management
Any organization in the logistics field these days must consider digital transformation or lose market share. One of the keys to effective supply chain management now is for manufacturers to choose suppliers who share data through smart technology. It allows everyone throughout the supply chain to have full visibility as to what supplies are available.
Outsourcing to third-party logistics (3PL) firms has become a growing solution for manufacturers that aren't up to speed with modern logistics. It's an affordable option if you don't have the budget to invest in IoT or other smart technologies. An advanced 3PL uses a wide range of smart solutions including IoT, automation, machine learning and robotics.
Seeking Superior Connectivity
One of the most significant smart manufacturing trends of the past few years has been the rising demand for and deployment of high-quality connectivity. Due to the expansive use of data on a daily basis, businesses face either conserving bandwidth or paying higher costs for more of it. Quality and quantity matter when it comes to connectivity because they both affect pricing and performance.
Manufacturers are steadily adopting 5G wireless networks, which handle big data much more efficiently than previous Wi-Fi generations. In response to the pandemic, 75 percent of manufacturers have adopted some form of smart technology, according to the 7th Annual State of Smart Manufacturing Report issued by Plex. The report further states that smart manufacturing adoption is increasing at an annual rate of 50 percent.
Capitalizing on Predictive Analytics
Data visualization has become a necessary science for today's business leaders to understand and utilize. Manufacturers must build upon data visualizations from IoT analytics to streamline their operations. Knowing the number of terabytes of data per day your factory generates is an important metric to track.
In a smart infrastructure, your analytics will track so much data that it would be impossible for one person to manually sift through all the data in a day. But with a machine learning program, you can get summaries of performance activity, along with predictive analytics for future output. AI and automation have empowered warehouses and transportation companies to reduce or eliminate waste and lost opportunities by generating more accurate inventory projections.
Warehouse managers must be accurate most of the time at demand forecasts to avoid losses from unsold inventory. Machine learning software can analyze millions of historical data points rapidly to detect patterns and trends in customer demand. It scans data from multiple sources and generates reports that include estimates for future demand to help managers order the appropriate number of supplies.
Automating Quality Assurance
One of the best ways to improve quality assurance in a factory is to monitor the network automatically and remotely. When an IoT device detects a bug or suspicious visitor in the system, smart alerts will be sent to management and IT personnel immediately. Factories are increasingly shifting to an Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) infrastructure, which means populating a factory with IoT devices. It also means video can be used in many locations of the facility for visual inspection.
Robotic process automation (RPA) for light administrative tasks such as inventory management is growing in importance among manufacturing plants. Automakers have used robots since the 1960s for redundant or dangerous assembly line tasks. On September 30, 2022, electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla unveiled its human-like robot called Optimus, which waved and danced. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said it will eventually walk and help build cars. Ultimately, the company plans to manufacture millions of these robots as human assistants.
Utilizing Wearables for Medical Patients
The healthcare industry has advanced quickly in recent years with wearables worn by patients. These devices monitor the patient's biological processes such as heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar level. Wearables come in various forms including smartwatches and headsets. Fitness trackers are typically worn on the wrist or around the neck. Pocket devices such as smartphones are also considered wearables.
The concept of a wearable computing device goes back to the 1970s when it was introduced by University of Toronto AI/engineering professor Steve Mann, the "father of wearable computing." In the 2020s some of the most talked about wearables include the Apple Watch and Fitbit's fitness tracker. The primary components of a wearable computing device are the visual display, the computing processor and user controls.
Reducing Data Distance with Edge Computing
Big data keeps getting bigger. The bigger it gets, the more it threatens to cause network congestion and latency. An effective solution has been edge computing, in which data is processed on or near the device that captures it. Instead of sending massive data to the cloud, data can be collected from IoT devices and sent to a nearby server for storage. By shortening the distance data has to travel, edge computing helps overcome latency issues.
The essence of edge computing is to avoid transmitting data over long distances. Not only does edge computing make real-time data easier to access, but it also makes it more secure. Fusing edge computing and AI together is another cost-cutting solution called "edge AI," which is part of IIoT.
Turning to 3D Printing for Short Runs
Additive manufacturing (AM) in the form of 3D printing has made it possible for more inventors to conduct more frequent prototyping. A 3D printer can be an all-in-one manufacturing machine that generates finished products, typically in a plastic form. Other materials, including foods, can become products of a 3D printer.
A major reason why 3D printing is highly efficient and eco-friendly for short-run production is that it eliminates production waste. The machine simply builds products layer by layer without leaving residue. It's excellent for on-demand production. It's a sustainable alternative to the traditional method of producing a high volume of units that take up space and might not ever sell.
The value of the 3D printing market is expected to triple to $44.5 billion between 2022 and 2026, according to the "3D Trend Report 2022" published by Hubs. An interesting finding was that 68 percent of engineers increased 3D printing from 2020 to 2021. The use of these machines makes it possible to innovate and refine new products faster.
Replicating Factories with Digital Twins
A digital twin is a software program that generates a digital replica of a physical environment such as a manufacturing plant. It constantly updates in real-time. Digital twins are used for fixing factory problems, optimizing floor layouts and testing new devices. Combined with machine learning, digital twins can predict the performance of factory equipment or processes.
Another way to look at a digital twin is that it's a virtual representation of something from the physical world. The three elements of a digital twin are a physical product, its virtual simulation and connections between these two items. Without connectivity, digital twins would not exist.
Using GPS and RTLS for Location Tracking
Transportation companies now commonly use GPS to track fleet vehicles on deliveries to estimate arrival times. While GPS works well for outdoor applications, it still faces challenges with indoor operations. Signal interference from tall buildings and certain materials can hinder GPS performance.
Manufacturing plants and warehouses have widely adopted Real-Time Locating Systems (RTLS), which can automatically track the location of inventory units in real-time. RTLS, which is separate from GPS, encompasses radio frequency (RF) communication equipment such as transmitters and receivers. Warehouses use scanners that can locate any specific inventory product instantly, which accelerates the order fulfillment process.
Optimizing Energy Consumption
Traditional energy costs have been rising and can be very volatile. So, it's essential for manufacturers to cut energy costs in every way they can and still produce quality products that meet public demand. Smart technology helps keep energy costs under control through real-time smart metering. Managers can monitor energy consumption at any time on a smart device.
Energy and environmental concerns are at the heart of smart technology, which is all about sustainability. As the population grows, an increasing strain will be placed on traditional power generation systems. This dynamic is forcing many utilities to adopt digital transformation as a way of preventing energy losses and automating alternative energy sources when necessary.
Bring your company's IT knowledge base up to date by studying the latest smart manufacturing trends of the century. It will put you in touch with the technology that's poised to influence business activity for years to come.